In Matthew 22 Jesus was approached by a lawyer who asked Him, “Teacher which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These two commandments encompass the law in its entirety. Loving God with all of who you are as you love people well. Loving God with all of our heart, mind, and soul is in direct correlation with loving people. In my limited time in ministry it seems like loving God more of an ethereal idea. Loving God seems to be measured by how much bible knowledge we have or if we are a passionate in our teaching. We tend to attribute loving God by how emotional we get during worship services or the involvement we have in all of the programs. All of these things are not wrong and they all attribute to us loving God with all that we are. However, we are missing an extremely key component that this lawyer and the Pharisees missed as well. The objective evidences of loving God is how well we are loving people, with the same kind of love He has shown us. Unconditional and ever-flowing. Our profession of loving God should be real and evident in how we are loving people. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul writes, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone one of you for one another is increasing.” Paul makes a clear connection that if our faith in God is growing so should be our love for one another. These two things are inseparable. We cannot say that we are growing in our love for God and neglect loving people well. John adds to this in his first epistle, “If anyone says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” It is abundantly clear throughout all of Scripture that loving God with all of who you are is evident in how we love people.
So the question remains, why do we struggle loving people? Here are three reasons. First, we have been hurt by people. Whenever we have been offended or hurt by people we set up a defense mechanism that makes it hard to love them. The popular phrase holds true “hurting people hurt people”. If we are constantly fueled by our hurts, both past and present, we will not love people well. The second reason is because we have objectified people. When people become objects, numbers, or statistics they no longer are treated as having a soul. Our goal in loving people is cultivating their soul for the things of Christ. This cannot occur if they are but objects to us. The third and final reason is people have become pawns for our manipulation or control. We surround ourselves with “yes men” that we can manipulate and use for our own agendas and pleasure. Take a moment and survey your relationships…how many of them do you continue to foster because of an angle you are working or because of what they bring to the table? If people are pawns then you are less interested in their well- being and soul and more interested in your agenda or what they can offer you.
As we conclude there is a powerful and inseparable connection between loving God and loving people. We, as the church, need to be less interested in an ethereal love for God and more interested in the tangible…loving people the way we are loved by God.